by Alice Levitt
If you don’t know who Joy the Baker is, we can only assume your life is sorely lacking in butter, sugar and flour.
One of the internet’s top food bloggers — as named by Forbes and Saveur, among others — Joy Wilson (aka “Joy the Baker”) is the thirtysomething California mastermind behind such unusual sweets as Avocado Pound Cake, Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Pretzel Brownies and Toasted-Marshmallow Milkshakes. She’s no slouch at savory recipes, either; Seven Days associate arts editor Megan James swears by her Kale-and-Sweet-Potato Soup.
But visitors to her site tend to drop in as much for her warm personality and self-effacing humor as for the food. A “self-taught/family-taught/taste-buds-taught baker,” Wilson exudes girl-next-door-charm and an affinity for words such as “bonkers” and “amazeballs.” She frequently interrupts her regularly scheduled recipes with posts about her life as a cat lady.
Wilson visits King Arthur Flour this Saturday, September 22, as part of its grand-opening celebration. We caught up with the blogger by phone to talk about her new cookbook, her brief time as a Vermonter and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s.
SEVEN DAYS: You’re no stranger to Vermont — you moved from California to Burlington right after high school. What brought you here?
JOY WILSON: When I was in high school, in Los Angeles, I was working at a Ben & Jerry’s in a shopping mall — like, the kind of job you have when you’re 15. I wanted a total change, but I still wanted a job. I literally called the Burlington Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop and I was like, “I’m gonna move to Burlington. Will you please hire me?” And they said yes. I went home and told my parents I wasn’t gonna go to college and I was going to move across the country and scoop ice cream. They nearly disowned me, but that’s what happened. Just sheer craziness.
SD: I’m curious, what’s your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s?
JW: Oh, my gosh. It totally depends on my mood. I really loved Wavy Gravy, but that doesn’t exist anymore. I guess now I like Chocolate Fudge Brownie. I’ve gone more pure.
SD: Did your time in Vermont, a state largely focused on locavorism, influence the way you approach food?
JW: I don’t think so. When I was living in Vermont, I had so little. I moved out there with a suitcase. Not a lot of friends. Not enough clothes — I was so cold. I was operating very minimally. I would eat the rejected ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s. There was a Chinese food restaurant on my walk home from Ben & Jerry’s, and I would order an entire container of hot-and-sour soup. And then I would walk down to the [City Market] co-op. It was such a treat to go into that place, and everyone was so nice. I would just buy myself a little something and it was such a luxury. I didn’t have a real food experience [in Vermont], because I just couldn’t afford it.
SD: Are you excited to come back to Vermont?
JW: I am so excited to come back. I haven’t been back to Vermont since 2001. It’s been a really long time. It’s just beautiful. The people are so nice. I’m really excited.
SD: You’re currently touring in support of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. What’s it like to meet your internet fans in person?
JW: Oh, my gosh, it’s so bizarre and amazing! I write Joy the Baker in the privacy of my own living room. It’s such a small operation with just me and my cat. It’s really bizarre to walk into a room with people who know me, from reading my work for a couple of years. I’m among strangers who know me.
SD: You’re visiting King Arthur Flour this week. What can we expect from your demo and talk? Any delicious baked goods?
JW: We’re starting out with a demo, so I’m going to spend half an hour baking an apple pie, which is super seasonal and actually one of my favorite things to do. I know people are sometimes super intimidated by it. And then there will be a book signing, as well.
SD: Tell me, do you ever use King Arthur Flour products?
JW: I do. I actually use King Arthur Flour because they are super consistent in their flour. When I was a professional baker, that was such a big deal. And they don’t even pay me to say that!
SD: You’re a food blogger, a cookbook author, a podcaster extraordinaire ... What’s next in the life of Joy the Baker?
JW: I’m definitely going to work on some more cookbooks. That’s what’s in my immediate future. And I’m maintaining the blog, which is my first love.
SD: What are you looking forward to baking these days?
JW: Pies and cakes are going to be bonkers right now, as we’re going into the holidays.
Joy the Baker visits King Arthur Flour in Norwich on Saturday, September 22, at 1 p.m., as part of its grand-opening celebration. Info, 649-3361.